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5 Cocktails That Will Make You Love Cynar

The bitter liqueur goes great with something sweet


The Hake's Naima cocktail | Photo: Sam Wells

One of my favorite cocktails is the Bitter Giuseppe. Created by Chicago bartender Stephen Cole, the name is a nod to Cynar (pronounced “chee-nar”), the rich, bitter Italian amaro that serves as the cocktail’s base. The drink is rounded out with sweet vermouth, lemon juice, and a generous amount of orange bitters. It’s kind of like a Manhattan that leans bitter. Cynar is somewhat of an acquired taste, but with all the love for IPAs, it’s surprising more folks aren’t embracing it.

Over the last several weeks—since November 8, actually—whenever friends mention needing a stiff drink, I think about Bitter Giuseppe. It’s a spirit-forward, slow sipper, and—not to get too deep here—but kind of a metaphor for life. After all, we wouldn’t have sweet without bitter.

Looking to delve into the Cynar cocktail realm? Go for the classic at Ironside Fish & Oyster, which does a really nice Bitter Giuseppe—it’s where I first fell in love with the cocktail—made with Punt e Mes sweet vermouth and a pinch of sea salt.

If you’re feeling bold, try the Smoked Cynar at Kindred. Served as a digestif—for a mere $5 on the rocks or straight up—it’s a great accompaniment to the vegan restaurant’s stunning desserts.

If you want to ease into it, try a cocktail where Cynar plays a secondary role, like Kettner Exchange’s popular Artichoke Hold (artichoke leaves are a main ingredient in Cynar), made with bourbon, maraschino liqueur, Cynar, and orange bitters. The Cyn City at Lion’s Share includes gin, Cynar, simple syrup, egg white, and lemon—kind of like a traditional sour, but with some kick.

And, over at The Hake, you’ll find one of my favorite new cocktails, the Naima. It’s head bartender Joan Villanueva’s tequila-based twist on a Negroni and it’s delicious:

1 oz. Tequila Cabeza
1/2 oz. Cynar
1/2 oz. Grand Marnier
1/2 oz. Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
1/2 oz. Aperol

Serve in a rocks glass with a Fernet wash


Speaking of Kindred, the vegan restaurant and bar celebrates one year in business this week. On Thursday, January 19, from 4 p.m. to midnight, they’ll be serving a new tropical-fusion menu and what they’re describing as their “most ambitious escapist cocktails to date” (there’s also something about a “sword release”). Friday, January 20, features a special anniversary cocktail made with St. George’s dry rye gin, described as a “gin for whiskey lovers.”

Have suggestions for a future blog post? Email 2kellydavis@gmail.com.

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